New Orano CEO to spend more time making the case for nuclear

Province slams feds for ‘hypocrisy’ on mine cleanup funding Uncertainty remains but Cameco ‘pleased’ with Trump’s uranium decision Roughriders QB Harker at home in land of potash and uranium Uranium development company inks ‘unique’ sponsorship deal with Roughriders Saskatchewan is years or even decades away from a decision on nuclear power, but Orano Canada Inc.’s new chief executive says he wants to take a more active role in advocating for what many believe is a major step toward addressing climate change.That means pitching atomic energy as a cleaner, safer alternative to coal and natural gas, especially to younger people who are increasingly concerned about the long-term effects of pollution on the environment, Jim Corman said.“That generation understands the challenges that are ahead of us, in some cases maybe more so than other generations do. They’re becoming more vocal and they’re becoming a group that can help when they understand the benefits of our industry,” he said.That represents a shift for the company, which has traditionally kept a low profile in Saskatchewan.Corman, who grew up in Regina and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, spent most of his career working for Orano’s predecessor companies, Cogema and Areva, in Saskatchewan before taking a job with the French state-owned firm in Paris.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.This week, he took over from the retiring Vincent Martin as head of the company’s 500-employee Canadian operation, which plays an instrumental role in the province’s multi-billion-dollar uranium industry, despite being less well-known than Cameco Corp.In addition to its McLean Lake Mill, which processes ore from Cameco’s flagship Cigar Lake mine, Orano owns stakes in three of the Saskatoon-based company’s northern Saskatchewan operations: Cigar Lake, the McArthur River mine and the Key Lake mill.Those partnerships mean the French company has been affected by ongoing oversupply in the global uranium market, a result of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, which led to a severe decline in demand for uranium mined in Canada and elsewhere.“It’s been tough for awhile. We’re not where we thought we would be today. If you go back a couple years, we were anticipating a stronger price for our product today than where it is. (But) we believe we’re at the low end of the cycle,” Corman said.Pointing to sharp production cuts — Cameco has indefinitely shuttered three of its operations, including McArthur River and Key Lake — since 2016 and an ongoing drawdown of existing supply, Corman said he believes the market should begin improving.The nuclear debate last flared up in Saskatchewan a decade ago, after Ontario-based Bruce Power LP concluded that a nuclear plant could add 1,000 megawatts to the electrical grid — a report that led to more than a year of robust public debate.Advocates tend to emphasize that nuclear is much cleaner than coal or natural gas — which make up the bulk of Saskatchewan’s generation capacity — while opponents point to potential dangers, as well as the problem of what to do with spent fuel.Ultimately, the Saskatchewan Party government declined to move on the proposal but left the door open for nuclear power in the future. More recently, SaskPower and Premier Scott Moe have mused publicly about small modular reactors in development.While discussions about such power plants are in the “early stages” as SaskPower works to drastically reduce its emissions, the provincial government has indicated small reactors could be part of a “diversified energy generation plan” by 2030.Corman, who hopes to bring his experience with Orano’s other operations to the Saskatchewan facilities he knows well, said the entire industry needs to continue advocating for a shift toward nuclear power around the world.“I certainly believe that nuclear will continue to have its role in the long term, and hopefully a growing role.”

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